Globe Editorial

Massport avoids undue stigma

July 29, 2011

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THE RELATIVES of Mark Bavis, the 9/11 victim who sued Massport over security failures, were entitled to their day in court. On Wednesday, the family made its best arguments, and Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled that its claim against Massport was unjustified. The decision was painful to relatives of Bavis, who was only 31 when he died on United Airlines Flight 175. But legally, it was the right outcome, and the family showed graciousness in accepting it and reiterating their respect for the system.

The judge’s decision marks the end of a nearly 10-year legal odyssey for Massport. The Bavises were the last 9/11 family with an unresolved claim against the agency that operates Logan Airport, out of which two of the hijacked planes took off. The end of this case brings some measure of closure to hundreds of airport and Massachusetts State Police employees who were working in the days and weeks leading up to the hijackings.

In those days, airlines took care of their own security; state police patrolled the airport itself. The Bavises argued that Massport itself should bear some responsibility for security lapses, and maintained that the airport had received a complaint about Middle Eastern-looking men inspecting the premises in the weeks before the hijackings. No one knows who those men were, or if there were any men at all. And even if all the assertions in the Bavises’ complaint proved true, Judge Hellerstein concluded, it would not amount to an actionable claim against Massport.

His decision spared Massport an undeserved stigma. There is no reason to believe that negligence on the part of Logan Airport led to the worst terrorist attack in American history. That’s not to say that Massport needn’t have tightened security, and revamped its procedures in light of the attack. Hellerstein’s decision relieves Massport of an unjustified claim; but the responsibility to patrol and protect the airport to the very best of its ability remains as important as ever.